Interview with Folk Artist Johanna Parker
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Her Creative Process and What Inspires Her!

Johanna Parker creates some of our most popular items, but ever wonder how she started? Over the years we've come to know Johanna well, so we thought we could dive a little deeper to discover her creative process and what inspires her. From her television production past to her current business ventures, discover how Johanna Parker bravely followed her dreams to become one of our most favorite artists... and friends!

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OUR INTRODUCTION TO JOHANNA PARKER

Johanna Parker in Halloween Costume!

Over the 25 years our year-round holiday store Traditions has been in business, I have been fortunate to meet a lot of the artists whose products we sell in our store and on our website.  Johanna Parker is one of the first that I met.  Throughout the years she and I have established a compatible working relationship and a friendship beyond business.  I respect the talent, dedication and drive that Johanna exhibits as an artist, traits you often don't see in artistic people.  

Johanna is the creative force behind her entire line. Like any good business she is diversified and has created many different types of products that feature her very identifiable artwork on them.  Johanna started by creating original designs that she sells directly to collectors, usually one-of-a-kind pieces.  But now she also designs licensed pieces that are reproduced overseas in much larger quantities, and her most recent endeavor finds her illustrations on fabrics, gift wrap and wallpaper. Both Johanna and her husband, JP, do all the time consuming work of representing her reproduction line to licensees as a team. Despite the added burden of dealing with the licensing of her reproduction figures and that daily grind beyond the fun of creating original designs, nothing would make Johanna go back to her roots in TV news production.  There she felt stifled and found the environment of being an art director for a NBC News affiliate in Denver, CO really stressful and frankly negative.  So, all those years ago, with no plan except to possibly recreate the love she had found long ago in working with her mom creating art pieces and selling them at craft shows, she quit her job in TV.  It was 2003 when she quit and by 2004 she was on her way to creating the business she still pursues today.  Johanna was lucky to have a very supportive husband who was behind her all the way in this new creative endeavor.  He was so supportive of her career change that he became an intricate part of the business and luckily for Johanna, he is a craftsman by trade, so he fit perfectly into her new career.  ...And so a business was born! 

JOHANNA WAS BORN ON HALLOWEEN!

Johanna now designs figures for Christmas, Spring, Easter, Valentine's Day and whatever other seasonal themes strike her, but it probably won't surprise you that Johanna has a special love for Halloween, since she was born on October 31st! There is no doubt, if you have seen Johanna's website, Instagram page or her numerous Halloween themed designs, she has a great affinity for all things Halloween!  Look at Johanna's creations and you will notice that the black cat theme is prevalent.  Her precious kitty Jack (see below!) is an inspiration for many of her Halloween illustrations and creations, and in fact was her muse for the very first design she created after she quit her art director job at the news station.  To quote Johanna, "My day technically begins when the clock strikes midnight, and I am deep into the creative process. Perhaps it’s fitting that I have nocturnal inclinations as a Halloween artist. Sleep is certainly important to me, but designing is what drives me every day (and night). I am clearly addicted to it! Our black cat Jack often reminds me that it’s time for bed ~ I’m not kidding!"


Johanna Parker in and her muse Jack the Cat!

I asked Johanna about her creative environment and, for a person that came from TV, Johanna tells me that she doesn't watch TV... in fact she and JP don't even own one!  She instead listens to music while she creates and occasionally watches How-To YouTube videos.  Johanna however is extremely connected via social media and loves letting her followers and collectors know about upcoming originals sales, new designs, and reproductions that will be available for each holiday.  She is really good at promoting herself, especially through her Instagram page where she posts pictures daily of the figures or art she is sculpting, drawing or painting.  You can tell her collectors love that she is personally in touch with them. Johanna is extremely personable and as you will see in all the pictures below, she really loves what she does, and it shows!

Surrounded by lots of inspiration in her work space!

Johanna's business has grown dramatically since those days when she began creating her originals.  In those early days, she and JP would load her original folk art into a car and off they would go to sell them at craft fairs.  But Johanna had and still has lots of ambition and drive, so even though creating originals is satisfying, it was important to grow her business... and that she did!  After Johanna established a name for herself, the next logical step was to make her art more accessible and affordable to those who loved her designs but couldn't afford the originals.  In the beginning when Johanna had to sculpt and paint each and every figure that she submitted to a licensee, the process was very time consuming and didn't allow her to grow. Even worse, the piece would most likely be damaged in molding, so she usually never got the original back!  She is thrilled that with today's technological advances, she can now submit a colored drawing for approval making the process much less labor intensive. She is so happy she "...doesn't have to bust out the messy papier mache mix!"  Now Johanna saves that time consuming paper mache process for her one-of-a-kind originals. The originals certainly reap the benefit of her mad skills at molding, creating and painting... but the good news is those originals often inspire character ideas for her collectible reproductions!

Jack watches over Johanna as she creates--his creative input is invaluable!

RANDOM FACTS ABOUT JOHANNA!

We know how much collector's love to feel like they have an inside scoop or know things about the artist because it makes their collectibles even more special to them.  So here are some random facts about Johanna that will make you smile and quite possibly answer a few questions about why her art looks the way it does!

  • She is not particularly fond of today's gore and scary Halloween.  Johanna prefers the "mischievous and spooky-sweet side of Halloween, so she slants her vintage style spooks in that direction."
  • Don't forget she worked in Television for over 6 years, so it is natural for her to "question the official scripted narrative and the mind 'programming' of TV."  She encourages you not to believe everything you hear and see on TV, she believes it is a "clever form of propaganda with an agenda."
  • Like me, she does not believe in microwaves, so zapping her food is out!  But she does cook on a 1940's vintage stove, making her think she was born in the wrong era!
  • She doesn't like drawing or sculpting people, so Santa and witches are 'borderline' for her.  She much prefers to draw whimsical, nature inspired characters, animals and insects.
  • Johanna avoids using the color blue in her art because she associates it with the time when her mom was diagnosed with Lupus.  Her bedroom and bathroom walls were 'coated in blue' so she believes she avoids traditional blue because it reminds her of that emotional time in her life.  However, as mentioned above, her mom is a huge inspiration in her life, especially when it comes to folk art, but also because of the way her mom fought and won the battle with Lupus by "tossing her meds and eating a mindful, organic and gluten free diet!  It took many years to find the answer on her own, but well worth the wait as her story is incredibly eye opening and inspirational."
  • And for those that want to know the way into Johanna's heart... some form of dark chocolate... daily... will do the trick!
Johanna leaves sketch pads everywhere and loves to sketch in her garden!


In the coming months we will be working with Johanna to bring lots more of her creations to our store and this blog!  So, keep checking back. Thanks Johanna!

Click here to view Johanna Parkers Collection!

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